I can list many reasons that I am upset with Phillies management in this putrid, lifeless, uninspiring 2013 season. But one thing I do not fault the Phillies for is their decision to non-tender outfielder Nate Schierholtz after the 2012 season. In today's Philadelphia Daily News, Phillies beat writer Ryan Lawrence looked at the now-Chicago Cubs outfielder and suggests that the Phillies made a mistake by lettting him go. I disagree.
When the Phillies acquired Nate Schierhotlz in the July trade deadline deal with the San Francisco Giants, it was more of a favor to the San Francisco Giants than it was the Phillies acquiring anything of value. Just shortly before a Giants-Phillies trade, Schierholtz requested a trade from the Giants, who lost all desire to play him anymore. When we learned that the Giants and Phillies could make a deal for Hunter Pence, it seemed inevitable that Schierholtz would be dumped into the Phillies' lap.
When the Pence trade did go down and Schierholtz was dumped in the Phillies lap, I never expected him to stick around. There were two reasons for my rationale: One - Domonic Brown. Two - he has never been that great. Let's look at point two first.
I figured we would get the best look at what Schierholtz could do from a Giants blog who spent six years watching him play. Here is what Giants blog McCovey Chronicles had to say about Scheirholtz's abilities in response to the trade demand:
So before you resort to the shut-up-and-play cliché, remember the ticking clock that baseball players have to deal with. It has to be unbelievably oppressive. The half-life of an athlete is shorter than just about any other profession, and here's what Schierholtz has gone through:
- 2007: Prospect! Hits okay in a brief call-up.
- 2008: Prospect! Hits really well in a brief call-up! Can't get more than 81 at-bats on one of the worst-hitting teams of the decade, but whatever, I'm sure there was a good reason.
- 2009: A major leaguer! But not a starter. Just a bench guy except for a stretch in June and July.
- 2010: A starter! But then he lost the job in the spring. Then he got it back! For a month. He got hurt, and then, well, whoops.
- 2011: A starter! But then he lost the job in the spring. Then he got it back! For almost three months, this time. Then the Giants traded for Beltran.
- 2012: A starter! But then he lost the job in the spring. Then he got it back! For a month. Gregor Blanco got hot, and then, well, whoops.
Now he's 28. He's six years away from Aaron Rowand. That seems like a long time, but it really isn't. He has a window. It's closing. He's already a fourth outfielder in the minds of 30 teams.
Schierholtz injured himself just two weeks into being a Phillie. But Schierholtz is not Aaron Rowand in 2013 and quite frankly, the Phillies could use his production this season (.293, 7HR, 23 RBI), so what is the biggest problem with letting him go? Domonic Brown.
Heading into this offseason, I felt that the Phillies had to do one thing once and for all: give Domonic Brown the keys to an outfield position. 2010, 2011, and 2012 did not offer Brown a true, extended look at what he could do while playing every day. 2013 could not begin without him having an opportunity to play every day. With 19 home runs, 47 RBI, and a .283 batting average, it is hard to argue with that. Schierholtz would have taken away Brown's clear shot.
I understand you will ask: what about Ben Revere and Delmon Young? Laynce Nix?
First, Schierholtz is no centerfielder. The Phillies threw him there last year a few times just out of necessity since they had no centerfielder after sending Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Phillies had to acquire a centerfielder and went with Ben Revere, for better or worse. If Shierholtz was to become a starter, then the Phillies would have left-handed hitters in the entire outfield (Brown, Revere, Schierholtz) and at second base and first base. That is a bit much for any lineup.
So would he be a better option than Laynce Nix? Possibly. Nix was signed to a contract in 2013 and Schierholtz was not, though the Phillies had an arbitration year left. To cut Nix and sign Schierholtz would cost the team about $4 million for one backup slot. That is hardly worth the money. But I do not feel that Schierholtz would ever be satisfied with a bench job.
There is plenty of evidence. First, Schierholtz requested that trade from the Giants because of a lack of playing time. Second, Schierholtz chose to sign with the Chicago Cubs for less money than he would have gotten from the New York Yankees because he felt he could play more. Schierholtz would never have been satisfied being a bench player. McCovey Chronicles said just as much:
He should be a fourth outfielder. I don't think he really is a starter -- doesn't have the plate discipline or the power. If he could improve one or the other, he's a starter. But he's probably not going to improve either of those areas. He'll carve out a nice career as a fourth/fifth outfielder, and he's pretty good in that role.
He doesn't think that, though. He thinks he's the same star he was in high school, college, and the minors. He doesn't think he's been given a fair chance. And he really hasn't. After a few years of this, then, he speaks up.
The Phillies did not need a distraction like the Giants had last year.
So, while it's easy to get disappointed to Schierholtz doing well with the Cubs white the Phillies scuffle with Delmon Young and Ben Revere, please think of Domonic Brown. Plus, give it time. Schierholtz could succumb to another injury or come back down to earth. For a 2013 Phillies full of problems, this is not one that we need to worry about.